The 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) marked the formal end to the 1990s Bougainville conflict, even though a truce, and subsequently a ceasefire, had been in place since late 1997. Among other things, the BPA provided for a delayed referendum on Bougainville’s future relationship with Papua New Guinea. Under an agreed formula, the referendum will be held between June 2015 and June 2020.
There are now clear risks, however, that the BPA mightn’t last the distance. This post looks at where things are headed on Bougainville and, in particular, at some difficult choices the Australian Government may need to make in the coming period.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has taken a personal interest in Bougainville, having visited it both in opposition and in government. She’s been careful to avoid commenting on the independence question although there’s no reason to think that the Abbott Government’s approach will be different from that of its predecessors; it will have a strong preference for Bougainville to remain part of Papua New Guinea.